Just a couple of quick takes on things that are happening. I may expand on these in later posts:
Banning MP4 players
It's been reported that MP4 players have been banned by rabbonim in Israel because of the possibility of accessing inappropriate content. This, of course, is on top of the ban on DVD players, computers, the Internet, and cellphones that aren't technologically frozen in the late 1980s.
Whenever there is a new technology available, there are two possible approaches to take:
(a) An outright ban
(b) A cautious acceptance with education
What are the possible outcomes of these approaches? My guess would be as follows:
(a) Some people will adhere to the ban while others will secretly disobey it. As the technology becomes more common in the mainstream, it will eventually filter into the hareidi society as well. Since there is an outright ban on the devices, no education on how to use it responsibly will be given. Youngsters may stumble onto content that they should not be accessing and, not having had any guidance in how to avoid it or why it is to be avoided, will stumble into it. Eventually, as the devices become common enough to be owned openly, you will have large numbers of people who have already clandestinely been viewing things they should not.
(b) Educate people on the dangers of having such devices. Teach them that it's better that they not own them and explain why. Play to the positives (i.e.... "It's not befitting a yid to waste his time watching videos. You're above that...") not the negatives. Encourage them to act responsibly. Will there be some who will go and search out bad stuff anyway? Of course there will... but I'm willing to bet that most of them will be the same people who would do so under the other scenario.
What's the best answer in the short term? Probably the first one. However, I think it completely fails in the long term - and this is the type of problem that you want a long term solution for... not a short term one.
In many ways, I'm grateful that the telephone was invented over a hundred years ago, otherwise, there would be people banning it now (after all, you could use it to call a member of the opposite sex).
(Yes, I know I ignored the vandalism aspect of the story. Perhaps I'll address it later.)
Women and Public Transportation
There are reports that rabonnim in Israel are trying to create additional mehadrin buses by encouraging the Bais Ya'akov girls to monopolize the back of non-mehadrin buses, thus forcing men to sit in the front. To be honest, I'm not quite sure how this would really change matters... after all, there is still nothing preventing a woman from sitting in the front of a non-mehadrin bus and nothing preventing a man from sitting in a spare seat he finds in the back. In addition, how are they to enforce this? Will they start punishing Bais Ya'akov girls whom they find riding in the front?
In any event, I personally find the whole idea demeaning and insulting. To be fair, "back of the bus" doesn't carry the same ugly racial and social overtones in Israel that it does in the United States -- so it may only be my cultural biases that cause me to react so... viscerally to this idea. And, nonetheless, while I try to be dan l'kaf z'chus whenever possible, I'm finding it very hard to see this other than as a means to denigrate women. Women and men travel together on public transportation all over the world in many cities without nary a problem of impropriety. Why can't the hareidim in Israel be expected to behave any better than a subway rider in New York City?